A Level 2020 Student Features: Whate’er The Test

By Sophia He (20S03H), Noelle Leow (21A01B), Shaun Loh (21A01A), and Rachel Ho (21A01B)

This year, Raffles Press invited four Year 7s who have invested their time and energy into their respective sports, instruments and other pursuits to share about their JC experience, and any advice they may have for juniors. Read on to learn more about the holistic side to these Rafflesians, and what they get up to when they’re not busy studying!

This is Part 2 of our A Level 2020 Student Feature.

Janika Oh

Up till the age of 11, Janika participated actively in CCAs, took part in multiple classes, and hung out with friends. But all that changed when she was diagnosed with scoliosis.

Even after the diagnosis, she hoped that with wearing a brace, chiropractic sessions, pilates, and swimming, her spine would straighten itself. But it only got worse: by Year 2, her curve was so serious (an S-curve of 60 degrees each) that surgery was inevitable. 

After the surgery, recovery was slow for Janika. As she shared, “I even needed help feeding myself and going to the toilet at first. That was the lowest period of my life.” However, Janika was determined to recover and bounce back stronger, and this determination fueled her to pursue her passion in music after her recovery. 

Janika thus chose to study H2 Music, which was “the best decision [she] made in JC”; she even served as the vice-chairperson of her CCA, Raffles Rock. It was not easy for her to relearn basic motor skills, but she managed to overcome her physical restrictions to play the drums in Rock and serve as the percussion Sectional Principal in the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra (SNYCO). Janika joined SNYCO in Year 2, and was the youngest member of the section then. According to her, “being in SNYCO was very different from being in a school orchestra.” Janika also benefited greatly from the other opportunities offered by SNYCO, which included other gigs, school outreach concerts, masterclasses, exchanges and overseas trips. In Janika’s five years as a member, the orchestra toured Beijing and Shanghai; she was also sent to Macau to participate in the 2017 Macao International Youth Music Festival.

Janika’s involvement in SNYCO extended to leadership roles as well. She served first as a section leader in her third year, then as a member of the Executive Committee for two years. From these leadership experiences, she learnt that “in such a large orchestra, close bonds were needed to strengthen teamwork, create a sense of belonging and make long-lasting, supportive friendships…gaining the respect and support of my sectionmates was essential for all of us to improve by being open-minded about criticisms.” 

Janika also uses her talents in music to help those who are disadvantaged, so that they, too, can be inspired to look at their situation differently and be empowered to overcome their challenges; she has given back to the community by performing for fundraising concerts.

One of her most memorable experiences was performing a duet on the marimba with Ms Lily Goh, a deaf musician. “Although she is deaf, it doesn’t make her different from the rest of us,” Janika shared. “She’s also human and deserves to dream and set her own goals, to try things that others may think she is incapable of doing.” Janika was inspired and humbled by Ms Goh, who did not let her disability hamper her dreams, and instead used it to inspire others. 

While pursuing music at such a high level requires much commitment, Janika did not let it distract her from her pursuit of academics in the time leading up to the A Levels. “I think enjoying what I do helped me with juggling my commitments”, she says. “For me, my top priority was studying, and I only took up additional gigs or performances if I felt that I had the time. I did not view them as jobs or a chore to do, but rather put my all into anything I was focusing on at that time, be it performing or studying.”

However, even with such a disciplined mindset, it was inevitable that things would get challenging along the way; Janika’s time was made easier by her friends, who checked in on her and helped her with her schoolwork, and her family, who made sure she slept as early as possible. 

Apart from music, another passion of Janika’s is engineering. She was in the Physics Raffles Academy (RA) in RGS, and participated in physics-related activities like F1 in Schools and World of Science hosted by the Defense Science Organisation National Laboratories (DSO), which led her to applying for an internship with DSO at the end of Year 4. Janika hopes to marry her two loves for engineering and music by studying music production or music technology in university, as she believes that pursuing both fields will allow her to be both a creative thinker and a logical problem-solver. 

To her juniors, Janika hopes that they will remember JC as more than a time of “mugging, mugging and more mugging”. “Instead, take this time to learn more about yourself,” she advises. “Make the most out of JC by creating memories together with your friends and teachers! Try your best in whatever you do, and I’m sure you will all succeed in whatever endeavors you embark on in the future.”

Janika would also like to thank her teachers, her friends, and the aunties at Chill for their unwavering support that has brought her to where she is today.

Grace Shani Anthony

Grace Shani Anthony excelled tremendously in sprinting throughout her years in Raffles. Although training was sometimes arduous, the sense of accomplishment she derived from each session, complemented with the solidarity she found among her teammates, was what made it “super worth it”.

To Grace, doing well for races is always a testament to her hard work. It is of no wonder that she has also been nominated for Young Athlete of The Year 2019. 

Her interest in track was first kindled by her brother who later competed alongside her at track events, including the ASEAN school games. Acting as a constant source of support for her, Grace felt that their sibling bond was not only another form of motivation and encouragement for her to push on, but also a boost to the enjoyment she derives from her practice. With this ardent passion and skill for the sport, alongside steadfast support from family and friends, Grace had her eyes set on competing at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. 

However, life is unfortunately filled with unpredictabilities. While holidaying in California, a most unforeseen tragedy befell Grace: she fell victim to a car accident that resulted in a debilitating torn left meniscus, not only forcing her to withdraw from the sport that had been such an integral part of her life, but also dashing her dream of competing at theYouth Olympic Games. Returning to peak physical form after an entire nine months of inactivity is a feat that would put any athlete’s mettle to the test. 

What may have seemed like a sudden end to her athletic journey was turned around by Grace’s phenomenal tenacity and fortitude. She clinched the A Division girls’ 200m champion title in 26.09 seconds as well as a gold in the 4x100m relay at July’s Vietnam Open. Behind this stunning comeback, as quintessential of every sporting legend, was a less glamorous, grittier backstory: “It got very difficult to manage track and studies in Year 6 because I was competing quite a bit,” Grace admitted. “I travelled to Taiwan and Vietnam so each time I was away, I missed out on a lot that went on in school, including Common Test (CT) 1. I didn’t really have time to catch up on my work and did really badly for CT 2 later on.” 

Refusing to let her athletic ambitions compromise her academic performance, Grace sought help from teachers and friends when overseas and conscientiously completed all her schoolwork. Her efforts eventually paid off—from a S/S/E/D/D in CT 2 to B/B/B/B/C in Prelims and then a stellar record of straight As in the A Levels. Once again, through sheer determination and hard work, Grace had overcome all odds and delivered outstanding results.

When asked about what motivates her to not throw in the towel and strive on, Grace shared about how the invigoration and satisfaction derived from pursuing athletics increases her motivation and confidence. “I always feel stronger and faster after each training, and nothing else makes me feel like that,” she remarked.

She only has these wise words to say to all her juniors: “If you really want something and put your mind to it, you will be able to achieve whatever you want. Just believe in yourself!” Grace also revealed how important it was to take things one at a time, and not to worry about everything at once.

While she has already successfully enrolled into her top choice, University College London (UCL), Grace will be keeping her options open as she awaits the results of her other applications. She would like to express her sincere gratitude toward her teachers and friends for their support and help throughout this journey.

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